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Boys Town Alum Reaches Back to Reach Out as Advocate for Troubled Youth

Jim St. Germain was a speaker on the school-to-prison pipeline at the White House.

​​From a booking cell to ​writing a book, Jim St. Germain is a man who has gone far beyond turning his life around.

Today, the 27-year-old community leader draws on his personal journey and experiences at Boys Town to advocate, locally and nationally, for services troubled children and families need.

For Jim, it still seems like a lifetime ago when he spent his days running the streets and running afoul with the law in his native Haiti. Born with the deck stacked against him, Jim eventually moved to the United States with his family, hoping for a life like the one he had seen in the movie “Home Alone.”

But while there was a home, he was never alone. Sixteen other family members living in a three-bedroom apartment in Crown Heights awaited Jim when he arrived in New York. It wasn’t long before old habits kicked in and he soon found himself in handcuffs more than a dozen times.

A turning point came as Jim awaited sentencing on a felony drug charge. His lawyers, recognizing the teen’s potential, asked that he be placed in a Boys Town New York Family Home where he could receive the structure he so desperately needed.

It was here that he started on his path to success, though Jim admits that at the time, he did everything possible to resist.

“It was like a sick person rejecting vital medication,” he said. “I was coming from an environment where I was used to doing whatever I wanted. Now, I came to a program with rules. That was a big struggle.”

Despite some setbacks, Jim eventually thrived in Boys Town’s environment of constructive constraints and self-enrichment. His Family-Teachers®, Iza and Damon Canada, taught him about the value of hard work and the importance of getting a college degree, a concept that was foreign to a boy who had never even heard the world “college” before he was 17.
After receiving his GED, Jim continued his education, earning an associate’s degree in human services and a bachelor’s degree in political science.

Those accomplishments led him to his ultimate goal of giving back to Boys Town. In 2011, Jim was hired as a Youth Care Worker at Boys Town New York.

“I was there three years, and it was very rewarding and extremely special,” Jim fondly remembers.

Looking to make an impact beyond his local community, Jim was able to take two giant steps forward. At the same time he was transitioning into his current role as a Residential Care Advocate within the juvenile justice department, he also was talking with his former attorneys and current friends about creating a nonprofit organization.

In 2012, Jim launched PLOT – Preparing Leaders of Tomorrow – a 501(c3) organization with the mission of mentoring kids like him, starting when they are young.  After three years of building the organization’s infrastructure and outreach, PLOT began working with its first cohort of ten kids, five of whom had been incarcerated.

Jim’s ongoing advocacy efforts have garnered praise from many esteemed circles, as well as extensive media coverage and requests to share his expertise. In particular, Jim points to Governor Cuomo’s “Raise the Age” campaign as a policy that benefits the incarcerated youth toward whom Jim has directed his passion and skills. 

Jim’s biggest career highlight so far has been being asked to provide his valuable, personal perspective to President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” Alliance. Jim said the opportunity to help his personal hero on a shared mission was beyond uplifting.

But Jim is not content to let a collaboration with the President be the peak of his efforts to reach out and help others.  He has reached a publishing deal with Harper Collins to tell his story in a memoir, tentatively titled “Bending Towards Justice” and set for release in early 2017. He also is focusing his considerable energies on earning a master’s degree in public administration and building a school in Haiti.

Even with all the potential that lies before him, Jim has never forgotten where he started his journey of success.

“Boys Town played a major role in the person that I am today,” Jim said. “I am forever grateful for everything they helped me accomplish.”